Andrew Pelechaty reviews the blockbuster Magic Round clash between Melbourne and Penrith …
Melbourne Storm 6
Tries: Nick Meaney (17)
Goals: Nick Meaney (19)
Penrith Panthers 32
Tries: Izack Tago 2 (5, 36), Viliame Kikau (9), Jarome Luai (53), Stephen Crichton (62)
Goals: Nathan Cleary (7, 11, 35 – pen, 38, 55, 64)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Despite the rain, this top-of-the-table clash lived up to the hype early, with strong defence from both sides.
Izack Tago was the first to score as the Panthers (in their striking pink jerseys) went wide to expose Melbourne’s right edge, with Tago running back off an inside ball. Nathan Cleary converted to give Penrith a 6-0 lead after five minutes.
The Pink Panthers doubled up when Viliame Kikau put in an Aussie rules-style leap to catch a perfect Cleary cross-field kick. Penrith could have scored off the previous play with a big overlap on the right. Cleary converted again as Penrith raced the clock with a 12-0 lead after 11 minutes. So used to bombarding teams with their dangerous attack (and missing Ryan Papenhuyzen), this start was foreign territory for Melbourne.
The Storm nearly hit back when Xavier Coates almost grabbed a huge cross-field kick from Cameron Munster (who, along with Brandon Smith, was rocking an early 2000s Slim Shady hairstyle).
The Real Cameron Munster put in another wonderful cross-field kick (after an earlier one-on-one steal to win the ball back) for Nick Meaney to score. Meaney converted his try to cut Penrith’s lead to six after 19 minutes.
Melbourne started to get back on top territorially as Penrith began conceding a few penalties. Crucially, the Panthers gave away a penalty on the last tackle with Melbourne 10 metres away from scoring, but Melbourne couldn’t take advantage following a loose pass and then gave Penrith a relieving piggyback penalty.
After working their way upfield, Penrith earnt a penalty from a high tackle. Stephen Crichton nearly scored off the next set, but was held up by Munster. But there was high contact by Meaney on Dylan Edwards, with Meaney put on report. Cleary slotted the penalty goal to give Penrith a 14-6 lead. The first half had definitely lived up to the hype so far.
Penrith went further ahead when Tyran Wishart (in his first game at fullback) dropped a Jarome Luai kick, with Tago scoring his second try. Cleary converted to give Penrith a 20-6 half-time lead, though the score didn’t reflect an excellent first half that lived up to the hype.
HALF-TIME: Melbourne Storm 6 Penrith Panthers 20Embed from Getty Images
Penrith all but sealed the game 15 minutes into the second half with Luai scoring after a nice break and pass from Kikau.
The injury-hit Storm were suffocated by Penrith’s defence in the second half, and struggled to get out of their end.
Crichton extended Penrith’s lead to 32-6 after 62 minutes, which was an unusually large scoreline considering how dominant the Storm have been at Lang Park. Though Penrith did beat Melbourne at this very venue in last year’s preliminary final.
This win also showed that last week’s Parramatta game was The Loss Penrith Had to Have, as they recalibrated and were switched back on tonight to take the outright lead on the ladder with a 9-1 record. Another blockbuster awaits with an SCG clash against the Sydney Roosters.
As for Melbourne, could they write this off as a tough game in the wet, or do their injuries (especially to Papenhuyzen) suggest tougher times ahead? Considering how ultra-professional the Storm are, you’d back them to rebound quickly against North Queensland in Townsville.
FULL-TIME: Melbourne Storm 6 Penrith Panthers 32
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Izack Tago (Panthers), 2 pts – Jarome Luai (Panthers), 1 pt – Cameron Munster (Storm)
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